Putting at rest speculations, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president K. Chandrasekhar Rao on Monday “totally” ruled out a merger with the Congress.

He said the possibility that he would reverse his stand was remote, even if Congress president Sonia Gandhi were to intervene. Mr. Rao, however, kept the option of an alliance with the Congress open. But it would be negotiated by a five-member committee headed by Rajya Sabha member K. Keshava Rao. The panel would also talk to other interested parties.

After five-and-a-half hours of discussions with politburo and executive committee members of the TRS, Mr. Rao told media persons that the decision against the merger was taken to preserve the party’s identity as a representative of the region. There was “100 per cent unanimity” against the merger, he said.

He insisted that the TRS had to maintain its “identity” to be able to play a role in the formation of a government at the Centre. In the event of an alliance, Mr. Rao said, the TRS would bargain for a lion’s share of seats.